Rittenhouse Bottled in Bond Rye – Review #33

Rittenhouse Background

Rittenhouse Rye BottleRittenhouse is a modern rye, but is also a nod to the roots of whiskey in America. In revolutionary times the drink of choice for colonists was rum. When the British blocked shipments of molasses from the Caribbean, desperate times ensued. To get their drink on people started distilling native grains and cereals. Pennsylvania in particular was known to make some more than adequate rye whiskey. A lot of this rye whiskey was made along the Monongahela river and this particular style of rye whiskey became known as Monongahela Rye.

Rittenhouse isn’t made in Pennsylvania but in Kentucky by Heaven Hill and is a throwback to the Monongahela style. For decades Rittenhouse was one of only a handful of ryes being produced in the United States. Rye had fallen out of fashion and perhaps hung on at the behest of some bartenders and whiskey lovers stubbornly sticking to tradition. Then as is typical, given a long enough timeline what was once popular eventually sees a renaissance. Rye began to boom in popularity and Rittenhouse was at the forefront with a legendary name at a great price.

The Rittenhouse story has a couple more twists with a fire in 1996 at the Bardstown Distillery. The fire was a total loss and the future of other brands were in doubt. Heaven Hill teamed up with Brown-Forman (of Jack Daniels, Woodford Reserve, and Old Forester fame) to work out a distilling agreement for Rittenhouse. Since then, and until recently, Rittenhouse was distilled at Brown-Forman. Not long after, Heavin Hill bought the Bernheim Distillery from Diageo in 1999. The distillery didn’t have capacity to add on Rittenhouse, but around 2008 the capacity was increased by 40%. At that point Heaven Hill once again began distilling Rittenhouse and filling barrels. That whiskey started to come to age in just recent months. If you really want to nerd out you can look at the bottles and know which is the newer stuff. labels listed as made at DSP-KY-1 are the newer bottles and DSP-KY-354 are the bottles we’ve known for many years. This review is listed as DSP-KY-354.

Details

No age statement, but said around 4-6 years old. Bottled in Bond at 100-proof. Paid $24, Mich state minimum.

Aroma

Caramel and cocoa.  Good vanilla. Barrel char. Soft rye bread. Mint. Maple syrup.

Flavor

Oaky. Seems dry already with additional astringency. There’s sweetness here, but seems to be hidden. Black pepper rye flavors. Tobacco. Toffee. A little buttery.

Overall

Rittenhouse Rye is a dry and assertive rye. This seems to have maturity to it with a some darker notes. Rittenhouse Rye has a woody dryness that doesn’t always work for me. The finish gives me a little cotton mouth. There’s a lot of flavors here and they’re pretty intense. Rittenhouse Rye is enjoyable at full 100-proof, which helps in the flavor department. It’s also nice with a little water. I can see why this is a popular mixer. It has some nice assertive flavors that hold up well while mixing.

Pricing on this bottle is good. There are only a handful of rye whiskeys and bourbon of this quality at this price. If you’re looking for a mixer, this is a good bottle to have on the shelf. If you’re looking for a sipper, this is’t my first choice but for the price it’s worth checking out.

Recommendation

Try a Glass 2.5/5.0

(My 5 point scale: Pass, Try a Glass, Buy a Bottle, Buy Again, Shut Up and Take My Money – Bottle price is taken into consideration for recommendations.)

Buying Options and Further Research

Rittenhouse has a relatively lower rye recipe, putting it in the “barely legal” group somewhere just about 51% rye. At this price there are a few similar options worth checking out. I’m a fan of “Baby” Sazerac Rye 6 Year Old which has some nice sweetness vs the dryness here. Old Overholt is a popular option, but that’s a little dull in my book at 80-proof. Besides the Baby Saz, I’d recommend checking out both Wild Turkey 81 Rye and Wild Turkey 101 Rye. Technically Wild Turkey 101 Rye is up a tier in price, but that’s because the current packaging is only a 1-liter bottle. Pro-rated it’s right in there with Rittenhouse and a very nice rye.

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Old Forester Signature – Review

Old Forester Signature Background

Old Forester Signature BottleOld Forester Signature is a part of a line of Old Forester products from Brown-Forman. There’s the Old Forester Classic, Old Forester Signature, and an annually released Old Forester Birthday. Old Forester is credited as the longest surviving Bourbon brand, going all the way back to 1870.

Old Forester was noted as being one of the first Bourbons sold as sealed container. Typically whiskey was sold by the barrel and then dispensed into decanters for retail. The containers could then be diluted to various degrees of quality. George Garvin Brown was a pharmaceuticals salesman and partnered with his brother JTS Brown to begin buying Bourbon and packaging it in sealed bottles. By selling sealed glass bottles, Old Forester offered a higher certainty of quality. In fact, it was claimed to be the favorite choice of pharmacists. As a result, the name Old Forester is named after a pharmacists Dr. Forrester.

Details

No Age Statement. Bottled at 50%. Mash bill of 72% corn, 18% rye, and 10% barley. Paid $23 

Aroma

Roasted, Caramel, Vanilla. Dark fruits of raisins and figs. Charred oak

Flavor

Sweet and toffee. Some blurt flavors. Buttery. Nutty. Charred oak. a little alcohol warmth. A touch of water dials downy he burnt here a bit. Some drying astringency in the finish.

Overall

Old Forester Signature has me rethinking my Woodford Reserve review. The similarities here are evident, but a good chunk of change cheaper. I tasted these side by side and I’m leaning towards Old Forester Signature. Woodford Reserve has some sourness that’s a bit off putting . Old Forester Signature also has a higher proof and seems to hold up well enough to some water to fix some of its warts (to me) without giving up much. I feel Woodford Reserve is softer and more drinkable while Old Forester Signature has a little bite and sharpness giving it some character.

Old Forester Signature is rich and satisfying with some assertive roasted and burnt sugar flavors. Also has some nice sweetness to stand up to these flavors.

Pricing on this is great. Lots of flavor and nice strong proof at a lower shelf price. If you’re drinking Woodford Reserve, you should check this one out. In fact, it might be your new favorite.

Recommendation

Buy Again – 4.0/5.0 Rating

(My 5 point scale: Pass, Try a Glass, Buy a Bottle, Buy Again, Shut Up and Take My Money – Bottle price is taken into consideration for recommendations.)

Buying Options and Further Research

I talked plenty about Woodford Reserve, so there’s that. Old Forester Signature is standard Bourbon with some quality competition near its price. If you’re looking for something similar check out Elijah Craig 12 Year. That has nice barrel character similar to Old Forester Signature. Another standard Bourbon option is Wild Turkey 101 and Jim Beam Black.

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